Saturday, July 23, 2016

What beauty companies own what other beauty companies (from Defining Delphine)

In case you've wondered what big companies own what beauty brands, here's a helpful post laying it all out. Then you can shop who you want to shop or avoid who you want to avoid or identify formulas that are identical between brands (though don't forget that unaffiliated companies can use the same factories to product certain products!).

Something new to add to the list: L'Oreal just bought IT Cosmetics.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review: Marc Jacobs Beauty Glow Stick Glistening Illuminator in Spotlight

Disclosure: Affiliate links. Product provided free for review from Influenster.
Review: Marc Jacobs Beauty Glow Stick Glistening Illuminator in Spotlight

To continue my recent theme of trying out products that wouldn't normally fit into my budget, today I'm reviewing Marc Jacobs Beauty Glow Stick Glistening Illuminator in Spotlight. This product was sent to me for free from Influenster. If you're not aware, anyone can sign up for Influenster and get things to review. It's not a blogger thing, but you do need to use social media.

Highlighter is one of those products that is proliferating the market right now, but if you are not a makeup collector or someone who regularly uses makeup to create editorial looks, you probably don't need more than one. In fact, you probably don't need one at all, because chances are you already have an eyeshadow that can function perfectly well as a highlighter. Personally, when I do my makeup, I am usually aiming to conceal things I don't like and to enhance or slightly alter things I do like, but rarely to draw a lot of attention to the makeup itself (with the occasional exception of lip colors and eyeliners). It's my impression that the majority of makeup consumers belong in this same category, though I am quite aware that people use and enjoy makeup for other reasons as well. Maybe you don't want to look naturally glowy, but like an android or an alien. That's a legitimate choice.

For me, two highlighters have been enough for a while now (and, again, eyeshadows will substitute just fine). Because I have a fairly neutral skin tone, I can adjust my makeup to be cooler or warmer, depending on my clothing, hair color, or mood, and it will still be flattering. So if I want to bring more warmth into my complexion, I'll use a gold/champagne highlighter (right now I have a mini tube of Benefit Watt's Up), and if everything else I'm wearing is cooler, a pearly or pink highlighter will often work better (I am currently working on a bottomless bottle of Benefit High Beam).

For a lot of people, either warm or cool will be more suitable for your skin tone, however. For everyday use, highlighter is generally meant to look like light is naturally reflecting off the high points of your face, and so having subtle variations of shade in various highlighters isn't going to make much difference, because the color shouldn't really show up, just the glow. For these purposes, you only need one good option that works for you.

That seems to be where Marc Jacobs Glow Stick Glistening Illuminator in Spotlight is meant to fit in. The Sephora description says that it contains both silver and gold pigments in order to be flattering to both cool and warm skin tones. I think you can see that that's a fairly accurate description when you compare the photo below to the first photo in this post. At some angles and in some lighting you get a warmer champagne or golden shimmer and at others a cool, pearly color like in the photo below. You may also be able to tell that it has a creamy texture here. If you've ever use Benefit's Watt's Up, the Glow Stick is much softer, slipperier, and more emollient.

Review: Marc Jacobs Beauty Glow Stick Glistening Illuminator in Spotlight

The effect is on my skin is subtle and natural, so it works well for everyday use. I even applied this stuff to my entire face, and I just looked "dewier," not like some kind of combination human-fish cyborg. But I didn't take a photo.

 Here's how it looks on my cheekbone. I'm wearing other makeup in the photo, but no base product (just concealer and powder). I applied the Glow Stick by swiping my finger across the surface of the stick and then patting it along my cheekbone.


This photo was taken adjacent to direct sunlight (i.e. I was standing right at the edge of the shade on a very hot, sunny day) which intensifies the effect somewhat. It's not as shiny in indoor lighting. I think it looks pretty naturally "dewy." (I can't help but put scare-quotes around that word--sorry.) In fact, I'm not wearing the highlighter near the inner corner of my eyes, but the natural glare of the sun of my skin there looks similar to the reflection created by the Glow Stick. I don't think it makes the natural texture of my skin look any worse than it is, but it also doesn't do anything to disguise it.

Unfortunately, the creamy texture does not work well for my oily summer skin.  It disappears after just a few hours, and all I'm left with are a few stray sparkles. I think this would probably work much better for dry skin, but since I don't have that, I can't say for certain. I'll have to hold on to this until winter and see how it works for me then.

The product description states that you can get "one-swipe application" on your cheekbone due to the shape. I haven't had much luck doing that. It's not the right size or shape for me. Fingers are fine.

Here are some comparisons with some other products I own:

Swatches of Marc Jacobs Beauty Glow Stick Glistening Illuminator in Spotlight, City Color Shadow & Highlight Mousse in White Gold, the highlight shade from the Wet N Wild Walking on Eggshells eyeshadow trio, Benefit High Beam, and Benefit Watt's Up.

Left to right: Marc Jacobs Beauty Glow Stick Glistening Illuminator in Spotlight, City Color Shadow & Highlight Mousse in White Gold, the highlight shade from the Wet N Wild Walking on Eggshells eyeshadow trio, Benefit High Beam, and Benefit Watt's Up.

I thought that the City Color Mousse would be similar, but it's clearly more yellow and more intense. The main similarity is that it also doesn't work very well for my skin type, because it is very slippery. But the color is so pretty that I keep it around in hopes that I'll figure it out some day. I also looked for an eyeshadow that would be close to the Glow Stick as a powder alternative. Honestly, any pearly-cream eyeshadow is going to be pretty close, as you can see from the Wet N Wild swatch. And then I swatched my two usual highlighters, Benefit's High Beam and Watt's Up, just as points of comparison. You can see that when the light reflects off of these products, the differences are subtle. Noticeable in heavy swatches like these, sure, but when you use a lighter application like you ordinarily would on your face, the differences are going to be even less apparent.

$42 is out of my usual budget for a highlighter, especially since there are so many things that can be used to highlight the skin. But I was curious, so I did a cost comparison with some other stick highlighters out there (there are a lot these days!).

The Marc Jacobs Glow Stick is $42 for 0.49 oz., making it $85.71 per oz.

Glossier Haloscope is 0.194 oz. for $22, or $113.40 per oz.

Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Highlight is 0.21 oz. for $22, or $104.76 per oz.

Benefit Watt's Up contains 0.33 oz. for $30, or $90.90 per oz.

Maybelline Master Strobing Stick is 0.24 oz. for $10, or $41.67 per oz.

Milk Makeup Highlighter is 1 oz. for $24, or fucking huge.

I don't know how any of these but Watt's Up compare (and I like Watt's Up quite a bit--it lasts longer on my skin), but there's the cost breakdown for you. The Marc Jacobs Glow Stick is somewhere in the middle. Not cheap, not outrageous.

I think that the Marc Jacobs Glow Stick is going to appeal mainly to people who have dry skin and want to own a single, natural-looking highlighter that's easy to apply without going overboard. There's a lot of product in there, so it would be hard to use it all up if it were just one product in a rotation of many. I guess it would also appeal to people who like their makeup to look like deodorant. Who doesn't, though?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Extra 40% off sale items from ModCloth

Disclosure: Affiliate links.
I know some of their stock is unbearably twee, and the names they give things sacrifice intelligibility for alliteration or rhyme. But you might find something special for cheap. Use code TOOHOT. (They're not kidding. The forecast is 97 degrees (that's 36 my fellow Canadians) for this coming weekend. TOO HOT!)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Choix Subscription Box #3 (with mini reviews of Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer, Chanel Le Vernis in Vamp, Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Ethereal Glow, Tom Ford Matte Lip Color in Pussy Cat, and Laura Mercier Baked Eyeshadow in Black Karat)

Disclosure: Affiliate links.
For more information about this subscription, take a look at the detailed review of my first two boxes. For now, I'm going to jump right in to the products I sampled in June (I'm already way behind, since I got my July box over a week ago already). This subscription is a fun way for me to test and review some higher end products that I normally wouldn't pick up.

My third box was full of surprises--things I liked more that I expected, and things that made for disappointing swatches but worked much better in actual use. Here are the samples I picked this time:

Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer, Chanel Le Vernis in Vamp

Chanel Le Vernis in Vamp and Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer in Sx01.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Ethereal Glow, Tom Ford Matte Lip Color in Pussy Cat, and Laura Mercier Baked Eyeshadow in Black Karat

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Ethereal Glow, Tom Ford Matte Lip Color in Pussy Cat, and Laura Mercier Baked Eyeshadow in Black Karat. They actually managed to preserve the "bacon" marbling in the Hourglass blush when repressing it! Impressive.

I also got these applicators, which as usual I could pretty much do without. I actually have no idea what the third thing is. This is the second time they've sent one of those. Any ideas?


Many, many photos below!


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Lackluster Liquid Liner: Review of Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Black

Disclosure: Affiliate links.
Okay, maybe "lackluster" is a little harsh, but I have a hard time resisting alliteration. The fact is that this eyeliner is fine, but since I've so often heard that it's THE BEST and since it costs $22, I was hoping for better than fine.

Review of Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Black

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is felt-tip liquid liner that works like a marker, with the "ink" wicking up through the tip. This style of liquid liner is less messy than some other formats, but the downside, in my experience, is that the tip can get clogged or not flow immediately. If you apply your eyeliner after your eyeshadow, which you need to do to get the cleanest, crispest line, then it can pick up the product below and prevent the liquid from flowing properly. I also find that, even though I store the eyeliner vertically with the cap down, if I try to draw a line on my eye immediately after uncapping it, it's usually a little weak. I have to scribble on the back of my hand a little to really get the product flowing.

The other problem I tend to have with this style of eyeliner--and this applies to all the brands I've tried--is that the tip wears down quickly and becomes sort of floppy, which prevents drawing a perfectly sharp point. You can see that in the photo below, my wing is not "pointy enough to kill a man." It was the best I could get out of it after using this pen for a few months (though only a couple of times a week). The tip of this particular eyeliner also tends to end up with long fibers clinging to the end of it, which are part of the material of the tip. I have to pick them off with my fingers, making a mess of my fingertips. And it's hard to clean up (see below). On the plus side, I've been using it for months now, and it hasn't shown any signs of drying up.

Review of Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Black

The Black shade is a very dark, opaque, inky black, which is great. It has a little sheen to it--it's not completely matte. It's easy to draw thin or thick lines by varying the pressure. If you go over a line you've already drawn, the product below doesn't get picked up, which is has been a source of frustration for me with eyeliners in the past.

Swatches of Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Black

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner definitely lives up to its waterproof claim, though not the "stay all day" claim, at least for me. It's very difficult to remove, even with a dual-phase makeup remover. I sometimes use this pen to label swatches I make on my arm, so that when I come back to my photos later, I know what's what. Here's my arm after trying to remove the marks with oil, makeup remover, and soap, AND THEN SHOWERING. I even used a scrubby Salux cloth in the shower, and the eyeliner isn't 100% gone. Maybe I should switch to Sharpie?


So if your main problem with liquid eyeliners is that they smear when your eyes water, that's probably not going to be a problem if you use this one. Unfortunately, despite being difficult to deliberately remove with oil, my oily eyelids devour this stuff just like any other eye makeup. Even with primer. Here's the state of my eyeliner after about 6 hours. And the photo below was taken in the winter, when I wasn't even at my oiliest.


You can see that the oil in my skin has sort of eaten the eyeliner away and caused it to crumble and flake, even though my eyeshadow has survived. The liner has completely disappeared at the outer corner of my eye where my crease dips low (for a clearer image of what I'm talking about, see this post). It still looked okay with my eye open, though the edges of the line had become more jagged and the tip of the wing was no longer sharp.

Overall, it's a decent liquid eyeliner. If I'm going to spend $22, however, I want something spectacular. I can find things that perform just as well as this, if not better, at drugstore prices. My favorite felt tip eyeliner is L'Oreal Lineur Intense ($7-10) (short review here), which I will write a detailed post about once I've used up this Stila liner. I am also curious about the Physician's Formula Lash Boosting eyeliner ($8-12) that Renee at Bad Outfit, Great Lipstick recently reviewed. I've added that one to my wishlist.

What do you look for in a liquid eyeliner? Have you found one that meets all your requirements?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Miscellany: Dry shampoo hysteria, tricky sunscreen, Amazon sales, and Too Faced on HauteLook

Disclosure: Affiliate links.
First: My husband shared an article from the Atlantic with me today linking dry shampoo with hair loss. "It's in the Atlantic; it can't be complete garbage." Oh, no? You can read it for yourself. It's the typical beauty article where the writer ask "experts" (in this case some combination of hair stylists and dermatologists) about her theory, and they basically respond, "Yeah, I guess it's possible that something like that could happen." I'm not going to throw out my Batiste. The lesson is probably that you can't replace actually washing your hair with using dry shampoo, because building up all the product on your scalp isn't great. I imagine it would feel pretty gross, though, so I don't know how someone could stand to regularly use dry shampoo without washing it out. (There was a similar article in Refinery 29 where the woman clearly had some kind of allergic reaction to an ingredient in her dry shampoo that caused the hair loss. If it hurts you, stop using it!)

Second: Evangeline emailed me with some helpful information about that Sephora Sun Safety Kit. I've never bought one of those, because I'm picky about what sunscreen I use on my face (though sometimes I use sample packets like these ones I reviewed on Instagram), but not at all picky about what I use on my body. That means a bunch of mini sunscreens isn't going to be much use to me. But if you are still trying to find your ideal sunscreen, buying a kit full of various minis seems like a potentially useful way to narrow down the search.

But here's what Evangeline says: "I recently bought the Sephora sun safety kit. I knew that $32 was a lot to spend on the total amount of sunscreen in the kit. It really annoys me to find that some of (all?) the small tubes are only half full. This trickery came as a complete surprise to me. I weighed the cost against the size of those small tubes. They fooled me."

So it sounds like this is one of those cases where you have to pay close attention to the labels in order to determine how good a deal it really is, because they've used tricky packaging to make it look like you're getting more product than you really are. That is something I often forget to do, as evidenced in my "tricky, tricky" series.

Third: Amazon has a deal right now where Prime Members get $25 back when they spend $50 on luxury beauty, so if you've been biding your time to buy something fancy on sale, now might be your chance. The downside is that it seems like you also have to spend the $25 you get back in the luxury beauty department, so you'll have to think about whether or not there are $75 worth of things you need right now. Use code PRIMEBEAUTY25. They also have a 35% off section, which seems to include mainly LORAC, Mario Basescu, Make, and Gorgeous.

ETA: Too Faced is on HauteLook today for 40-60% off, if you're looking for any eyeshadow palettes or lipsticks. Their eyeshadow primer is also marked down to $12.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

July Target Beauty Box available now ($7)

Disclosure: Affiliate links.
There are two options this month,  with 7 items in each one:"Fresh & Fabulous" and "Simply Radiant." Are you going to pick one up this time around? I think if they were $5 I might grab one, but $7 seems a little high for what is included. You do get a full-size NYX lipstick in the first box and a full size Wet N Wild mascara in the second. You can see all the contents of both boxes here as well.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday Screed: Brands that I am falling out of love with (e.l.f. and Paula's Choice)

A photo posted by Lyn (brutally honest beauty) (@brutallyhonestbeauty) on

Last week I hinted at some recent dissatisfaction with one of my formerly favorite brands, Paula's Choice, and some people asked for some more information, so boy-oh-boy are you going to get it. I was originally going to write two separate ranty posts about these brands, Paula's Choice and e.l.f., but I thought I would combine them into one, since some of the issues I'm having with them are similar. They are two companies that, when I started blogging, I was really into and frequently recommended. Now my fervor has cooled somewhat. I still use and like some of their products, but I am more wary. Let me explain why. Settle in with your Sunday cup of tea, because this is long.

I'll start with e.l.f. In the past, I've positively reviewed a number of their products, though with some caveats and suggestions for how best to shop the brand. Those products are still good (for the most part). But the appeal of e.l.f. was always that you could find some surprisingly impressive products for $1-3, and if you ended up with something you didn't love, you hadn't gambled much. Recently, their prices have gone up significantly, but I don't think the quality has improved much, if at all. So now my general view is that you can find some unsurprisingly mediocre products for $3-10, with a few gems sprinkled here and there. Their recent skincare line, in particular, appears lackluster in terms of ingredients, and the prices go as high as $14 for single product. That's really no lower than many mainstream drugstore brands out there, so there's no advantage to choosing a moisturizer from e.l.f. rather than something more interesting from Cetaphil or CeraVe or Simple, for example. Outside of skincare, their new foundation is $10 and basic tools like nail clippers and files are $5-7. Where's the advantage?

Another major appeal of e.l.f. had been the excellent sales they offered on their website. Recently, however, they have excluded many of their most popular products from sales. So much for that, then, too.

The biggest annoyance I've recently encountered with e.l.f., however, is a lack of quality control. Now I have been buying products from them since about 2007 without any major issues with packaging or other inconsistencies. This spring, however, I tried to buy their $3 tubing mascara (reviewed here) at CVS. The results are what are pictured at the top of this post. The mascara inside the tube was so completely dried out that the brush snapped off when I tried to pull the wand out. I was thinking about using this mascara for my wedding, so I went back to CVS to exchange it, and the cashier suggested that I open the new tube to make sure it was okay. Same thing happened! And then the same thing happened with the third and fourth tubes as well. Finally I found one with a brush that actually came out and took it home with me. The cashier claimed that lots of people buy the mascara and no one has ever returned it for that reason before, but I wonder if it's just that most people don't bother to return a $3 mascara, which is a choice I can understand.

It's obvious that the tubes were not properly air tight, which also makes me wary about how well they would keep out contaminants. The tube I ended up keeping was really dry, too, so I only got a couple of weeks of use out of it. Obviously quality control is an issue with cheap shit. I get that. It's like this winter when I bought two of the same sweater from Old Navy, in the same size, but in two different colors, and one of them was waaaaayyyyyy bigger than the other. Companies are going to sacrifice diligence in checking for consistency in order to keep costs down. All of this would be less annoying is e.l.f.'s prices were still incredibly cheap (and oddly enough, when they were, I had no issues like this).

My criticisms of Paula's Choice are similar in terms of rising prices and losing the original appeal of the brand. I think many of the products themselves are good quality and very effective, and so I'm not declaring that I will be boycotting the company or even that I won't not recommend them in the future. Many of the things I love I've been using for years, like the 2% BHA liquid and the moisturizing gel (both reviewed briefly here). I've also liked some of the new products, like the 1% retinol (reviewed here).

But I'm becoming increasingly disillusioned. Paula Begoun's website and books were one of my earliest introductions to the critical analysis of cosmetics and one of the main reasons I am now as interested as I am in critiquing the beauty industry and marketing. I even once referred to myself as a "Paula's Choice fangirl." In the past, she was first and foremost a source of advice and criticism, and her product line seemed to come second, presented as a fairly affordable alternative to the misleading and ineffective products sold elsewhere. But recently Paula's Choice seems to have shifted to an emphasis on quickly putting out new products as often as possible, and some of them seem as gimmicky as the things she used to denounce. (I understand that I am conflating Paula Begoun the person and Paula's Choice the company, here, but that has long been what their marketing has encouraged.)

A photo posted by Lyn (brutally honest beauty) (@brutallyhonestbeauty) on

The turning point for me was really the release of an eye cream. This was a pretty controversial moment, which might surprise you if you don't have any history of following Begoun's advice. She had always insisted that eye creams were superfluous products, because the skin around your eyes is not made up of different components than the rest of the skin on your face. That meant that any moisturizer or serum with good ingredients would work perfectly well in the eye area as well. Furthermore--and this is the sticking point for me--since companies tend to sell eye creams in much smaller packages than other moisturizers, even though they do not contain special ingredients, they are almost universally overcharging for them. Eye cream is a racket, basically!

And then last year she claimed that her customers had been demanding an eye cream from her for a long time, and so she decided to release one so that they would have an effective option rather than going elsewhere and buying something that wouldn't work. Ok, whatever. Fair enough. Except that it comes in a tube 1/3 the size of her moisturizers, but costs the same amount. So Paula's Choice is charging 3 times as much for eye cream as for facial moisturizer. Sound familiar? ETA: Did the math wrong--it's actually worse. The eye cream is $32 for 0.5 oz., and their other moisturizers are 2 oz. for (usually) $28. So actually that would make it $128 if it was the same size as their moisturizer. Shit.

Another symptom of this emphasis on increasing sales at the expense of providing solid basics is that the company is constantly discontinuing old staple products and replacing them with new ones (that are sometimes more expensive). I know that this is a common business tactic for cosmetics companies, but it's frustrating in a company that has made its reputation on being different and more transparent. The prices of Paula's Choice products in general has risen a lot in the past few years. I remember that when I first bought their gel moisturizer 10 years ago, it was in the $15-20 range (Canadian), which was a lot for me at the time. Now it's $28 US. I am aware of inflation, but an almost $30 moisturizer is a splurge, in my view, not an everyday basic, however nicely formulated.

There's one complaint about Paula's Choice that I see frequently, but that I don't agree with, however. It is that the Beautypedia reviews of their products are biased, and therefore none of the reviews on that site are reliable. It's true that I find a number of things annoying about the way things are reviewed on Beautypedia (I'll leave that for some other time). But the fact that they give Paula's Choice products their highest possible scores, even though they are supposedly now "independent," isn't one of them. Their criteria were originally established by the same people who formulated Paula's Choice products, based in large part, no doubt, by Paula Begoun's requirements for good skin care. As a result, it would be more outrageous to me if Paula's Choice products did not receive the highest rating based on their own criteria. Why the fuck would the company be releasing products that didn't even meet their own standards? They should, at minimum, satisfy the requirements for effectiveness that the company itself established.

I will keep using Paula's Choice products when I can afford them, because some of them work very well for me, and I can be confident that I won't get something with a fragrance I don't like. I don't want to mess up a good thing when some of these product are working so well for me (until they discontinue them)--and also because I have credits, admittedly (thank you to people who used my referral link way back when!). But I am more skeptical than I used to be.

What are your thoughts on these two companies? Are there any other former favorites that have gone sour for you lately? When that's the case, do you think your preferences have changed, or have the products/companies themselves changed?
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